Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tack Ho Confessional: Dressage Bridles

I got a question the other day about exactly what bit/bridle set up Courage was going in.
the sparkliest one, obv
Ha! The answer is he's not going at all.


Well ok. He had a couple weeks off around the holidays due to travel/work/life (apparently I have to human sometimes? wtf). He's starting back into work now, which is as good a time as any to talk about the biggest time suck of horse ownership: choosing a bridle. Seriously. This takes too long every single day. It's like... do I ride? Hand walk? OH GOD TOUCH THE LEATHER MUST RIDE WHAT ARE WE WORKING ON
This is my primary bridle selection right now. I don't use the franken jump bridle (left, brown and blue and sparkles) much because we aren't jumping and the bit is the least desirable--it's a knock off of the center bit, which is sometimes our favorite bit and sometimes not. It doesn't matter when we jump because I rarely touch the reins, but I don't love it for dressage.

I do love it for looking at and yes sometimes I take it home to clean just because I want to touch it for a while. (We aren't jumping this winter for a variety of complicated reasons. We're hoping to get back to it in the spring.)

That leaves the other two black bridles. Who can believe I own two black bridles? Right? 
so beautiful
This (center in top pic) is my Red Barn Capriole bridle with a Topline Leather browband and Courage's fancy Sprenger bit. There is a flash attachment loop, but we don't school in the flash with this set up. It's supposed to be our show bridle. I really like how Courage feels in the Sprenger most of the time. The reins are my SUPER AMAZING D'yon rubber lined with hand stops eBay find that I adore.

The crank is usually pretty loose and the bit is fat compared to most bits. It was our go-to for a long time. If we could only have one bridle, this would probably be my choice.


Then there's Antares. And I love him.
such class
Antares has a couple features that the Red Barn doesn't. First, the cavesson is not a crank. Second, I keep the flash on here. Third, this is my stupid cheap $10 single jointed snaffle that is the thickest bit ever. Also you'll notice that the reins have martingale stops, which is important when starting an OTTB back into work after a break.

I really love this set up for encouraging Courage to take a solid contact. He's pretty light in the bridle to start with, so the big, thick bit lets him lean a little bit. That would be a terrible idea for a heavier horse, but I like it on him. I also like the bridle for lunging and keeping the bit quiet and for rides where I think he's going to be silly--it's very forgiving and very stable.
we also lunge in a halter now
You'll notice that Courage doesn't go in a loose ring, ever. I know those are supposed to be correct dressage bits, but I actually don't enjoy scraping his brain off the rafters with a spatula. For whatever reason, he CANNOT deal with loose rings.


You'll also notice that both bridle have flash attachments, but I'm only using one flash. There are a couple reasons for that.
1) A flash in dressage is like a standing martingale in hunters. It's just part of the look, though technically not required. I like the look.

2) Courage goes well in a flash about once every two weeks. I'm really playing with this right now since it's not show season--Courage used to just gape his mouth open and brace. Then he'd open-mouthed chew on the bit. Now he's learning how to interact in a more educated way. I throw it on for lunging (which we've done a lot of lately) and I've been riding in it some. I'm certainly not above pulling it off if I think it's causing him tension, but we're just seeing what happens right now. I adjust it pretty loosely, but between bit stability and limiting odd-racetrack-mouth evasions, I like to keep it in the mix.
i mean i love sharing the indoor
So there you have it. Depending on whether I want to work on getting Courage more solid in the contact or relaxed and responsive, I choose a bit+bridle+noseband and roll. I'm really happy with the collection right now and I look forward to longer days and riding outside.


  1. O doesn't go in a loose ring ever either. All that loose motion gets her little brain short circuiting - she starts clacking and rattling it around in her mouth, then her brain falls out her ears and she bolts as fast as she can to try and run away from the clacking metal. Which makes it clack more and then she runs even faster. Forever.

    So she goes in her Happy Mouth mullen mouth eggbutt and that's it. It's not a driving bit either, not by a long shot - I had someone try to tell me that driving in a snaffle is unsafe. And I was like uhm, no. Driving in ANY other bit but this one is unsafe.

    Special strawberries...

    1. We have one of those.. All my other horses go in a sweet iron loose ring snaffle. One mare loses her marbles in it. Sticks her nose in the air and runs away from it. At halt, up-down-up-down-up-down. FOREVER. A standard eggbut was better, Myler with a barrel and fixed rings is as god as she gets. We ride endurance but don't you.ever.dare put reins with clip attachments onto HER bit..

  2. Bwahahahah... the biggest problem I have when going to tack up is making sure I get the right bridle for the right horse. I think I'd never actually get on the horse if I had to pick a SPECIFIC bridle.

  3. That's funny the Courage is so weird about the loose ring. I tried to ride Val in an eggbutt that was otherwise almost identical to his loose ring, and the head flipping was out of control. He just couldn't handle it. OTTBs are so funny about what they like in their mouths. We di have the same issue of needing something thick he can lean on though, because Val has a very soft mouth, and a very big ego.

    1. Ha! "A soft mouth and a big ego"--describes Courage perfectly.

  4. I actually want to get Suz an eggbutt because I find a lot of loose rings pinch the horse's lips.

  5. Moe HATES the loose ring; he isn't bad in it, just endlessly mouthing it (and not in a good way). He also dislikes double-jointed bits. Gina, on the other hand, tolerates every bit with the same general disdain she expresses for most things in life.

  6. I don't have a loose ring bit, either. I pinched my finger on a loose ring a couple times, and decided that I really don't like the idea of my horse's lips being pinched. Yay for eggbutts!

  7. i really want to start playing with a flash more... it's very occasionally come up in lessons as something worth trying, but the one time i did my mare was quite displeased with it... should probably try more tho, esp during the off season!

  8. I love your bridle wardrobe. I've been playing with a flash sometimes on Mr. W too. not jacked tight, but a reminder to not gape his mouth is helpful sometimes. I think it's helping show him a better way :)

  9. Pig used to lose his marbles in a loose ring, but after riding the in the drop for long enough to fix my hands and get him more confident in contact he no longer cares. Now the metal seems to make more difference, so we switched to a sweet alloy (sprenger/knockoff). And whatever I use MUST be double jointed, or I have a huge problem on my hands. So anyway, it seems more educated pony = more accepting of the loose ring.

    Flashes/drops are so very useful sometimes. There's no harm in going in them if they help the horse.

    I still like that wider red barn noseband. :)

  10. Alex is TERRIBLE in the loose ring, all he does is fiddle with the but, drives me nuts! Truthfully the best thing he goes in is a simple Myler. He can't fiddle and the covered joint keeps him from pulling the bit back into his teeth with his tongue and totally taking off. I totally understand the no loose ring rule :)

  11. I hear you on specific bit preferences! After trying everything, a three-piece loose ring KK bridoon I picked up for $20 is what she likes best. Oh ponies! Gotta Love 'em!

  12. Skye literally cannot go in any bit other than the myler snaffle. All other bits cause her brain to fall out of her ears. And I know this to still be true because I recently thought perhaps her 6 year old self was grown up enough to go in something else for a ride. I was wrong.

    But Don's favorite bit was a fat loose ringed snaffle so I rarely rode him in anything else. I just have this huge bit collection that has seen almost no use.

  13. I like to change up bridles and bits for funsies. Rn I kinda want to put my hunter in a figure 8 ... cause... FUN. #tackhoprobs

  14. You gals and your multitude of bridles :). I love hearing about them even though I just have my lone soldier.

  15. I'm down to two bridles only. TWO. Dressage and jump. NO schooling, no 2 jump bridles, just 2 total. I haven't just 2 bridles in ages...

  16. I'm at three now too, but I think one of those three is going to be kicked to the curb real soon. Currently eyeing a Bobby's tack bridle right now, but since I haven't seen or touched one in about 10 yrs, I'm a little hesitant.

  17. I love looking at bridles, and dreaming about bridles, and putting bridles together on Flexible Fit's website. "Lucky" for me Sydney's strange head size discourages me from spending much (any) money on bridles. I have two bridles that are put together from different parts of bridles to fit her strange head shape. I just have to remind myself of the anguish that went into getting all those pieces together to remind myself that I don't want any more bridles.


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